DIY Tire Chains




I needed some tire chains for my 33x12.5 tires. These instructions can be used to make chains for other sizes as well.

Step 1: Supplies

1.Buckets of 1/4 chains (We used 3 buckets from harbor freight, 35 ft long)
2.5/16" quick links
3.Tire off vehicle or a spare of the same size
4.Measuring tape
5.3/16" quick links
6.Bolt cutters
7.Tool box or bag to store completed chains in
8. Two heavy-duty screw drivers to pry open the links you will be cutting with your bolt cutters
9.Way to grind on the 5/16s quick links
10.Bungee cords or something similar to hold chains tight when installex

Step 2: Measuring the Tire

I laid the chain on the tire and marked the link I wanted to cut with a marker.

Use bolt cutters to cut the link that was marked and use the screw drivers to pry apart that link until you can remove the cut link.

Count the number of links on the chain you just cut. Write down this number.

Step 3: Measure the Width

I used a measuring tape to measure the width of the tire from the inside sidewall across the top to where it would meet the chain on the outside sidewall. For my tire, it was about 18.5 inches.

Now measure that same length on your chain and cut the chain to this length. Make sure to take into account the length of the quick links on each end, usually this means you can cut your chain about 2 links shorter. For our 18.5 inch sections, it was 11 links long plus one quick link on each end.

Next, you will need to decide how many cross sections you want. I decided on 8. Now you have to mark where each of the cross sections will attach to the long chains. Our long chains were 64 links long, which means the cross sections will be attached at every 8 links. (64 links divided by 8 cross sections= a cross section every 8 links).

Step 4: Quick Links

Add the 3/16" quick links to each end of the cross sections that you just cut and attach the cross sections to the long outside chains, at the links that you marked in step 3. You can tighten these quick links with a crescent wrench to make sure they don't come loose.

Now that you have all of the cross sections attached to the long outside chains, you will be attaching the 5/16" quick links to one end of the long outside chains. I found that I had to grind the sides of the 5/16" quick links so I could more easily slip the chains on and off.

Step 5: Completed

Put the chains on as a dry run to make sure they fit the way you want them too. Make adjustments as needed. Mine were a little too loose so we ended up cutting two links off our cross sections to make them fit more snugly. This is because we forgot to take into account the length of the quick links when we cut our cross sections.

Most chains have bungee cords to pull them tight across your tire. I ordered the bungee cords in the picture off Amazon, but black bungee cords can be bought at harbor freight for pretty cheap.

Once you're satisfied with the way your chains fit on the tires, place into storage box or bag until needed!!!



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11 Discussions


10 months ago

Nicely done good clean job. Just for occasional use I imagine. Commercial tire chains are made of hardened steel. You can't bend or cut them without the correct tooling or massive force. I have done something similar to this myself for my little John Deer snow blade tractor..(.those screw links will probably break the first time they hook on something). What I ended up having to do was get hold of a bunch of discarded commercial chains and cobble together a set so that they would last. For my F350 crew cab 4x4 I use adjustable hardened chains with cobalt steel lugs welded to the tread chains. I also us a commercially available rubber "spider" that works much better than a bunch of bungie cords, (they were forever moving and stretching out. The worst part is installing them in deep snow and trying to get the inside bungies all correct).

1 reply

Reply 10 months ago

The EPDM bungees that I used for my tractor cracked and failed prematurely (perhaps due to temperature and/or time under tension). A proper adjuster like the one referenced at the bottom of the original post would be more convenient, but thin ratcheting tie downs (one per side threaded through the links and cinched) work pretty well.


1 year ago

I like this. It looks easy, which is good! I'm going to make a set of
these for my tractor so I can get a little more traction when the snow
drifts get too heavy.

If, like me, you'd rather not remove a
tire for this you can just measure the diameter of the tire between the
tread and multiply it by pi (about 3.14) to get the length of chain you
need for the outside. Fair warning though: I've only done this on


1 year ago

So, which are better, chains or studs? It seems studs would allow a faster ride on the expressway, but do they slip? Although I've lived in plenty of snow, I don't have experience with either.

1 reply

Reply 1 year ago

In general chains are for snow. and studs are best for general winter use. However, they are very good on ice roads.


1 year ago

Duh, I used plastic wire ties, similar to other users on the Amazon reviews that I read before buying chains for my garden tractor, I didn't think to use bungee cords, that will work much better. Thanks!

1 reply

Reply 1 year ago

No problem!! We have always used them on our vehicles chains.


1 year ago

I guess that chain links are welded at a juncture when manufactured. If the bolt cutter cuts at that juncture and you assemble the cross chains and reweld the juncture I wonder how strong that assembly technique would be. I would make the cuts on the cross chain pieces. I will have to look into putting a set together for one of my 2 wheel drive vehicles. Good use of the quick connect pieces.

1 reply

Reply 1 year ago

Thank you! I did think of that but do not have a welder.

This would be a really useful survival skill to have is colder climates.